Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography

Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography

by Rob Lowe

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250008855
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/03/2012
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 95,973
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.89(d)

About the Author

Rob Lowe is a film, television, and theater actor, a producer, and an entrepreneur. He also is involved in politics. He lives with his wife and two sons in California.

Read an Excerpt

Stories I Only Tell My Friends

An Autobiography

By Rob Lowe

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2011 Robert Lowe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9602-0


I had always had an affinity for him, an admiration for his easy grace, his natural charisma, despite the fact that for the better part of a decade my then girlfriend kept a picture of him running shirtless through Central Park on her refrigerator door. Maybe my lack of jealousy toward this particular pin-up was tamped down by empathy for his loss of his father and an appreciation for how complicated it is to be the subject of curiosity and objectification from a very young age. That said, when my girlfriend and others would constantly swoon over him, when I would see him continually splashed across the newspapers, resplendent like an American prince, I wasn't above the occasional male thought of: Screw that guy.

As a person navigating the waters of public scrutiny, you are often unable to hold on to personal heroes or villains. Inevitably you will meet your hero, and he may turn out to be less than impressive, while your villain turns out to be the coolest cat you've ever met. You never can tell, so you eventually learn to live without a rooting interest in the parade of stars, musicians, sports champions, and politicians. And you lose the ability to participate in the real American pastime: beating up on people you don't like and glorifying people you do.

I had not yet learned that truism when he and I first met. I was at a point where I was deeply unhappy with my personal life, increasingly frustrated about where my career seemed to be going — although from the outside it would probably appear to anyone observing that I was among the most blessed twenty-four-year-olds on the planet. In an effort to find substance, meaning, and excitement, I had become deeply involved in the world of politics.

It was at one of these political events, the kind where movie stars mix with political stars, each trading in the other's reflective glory, both looking to have the other fill something missing inside them, that we were introduced. "Rob Lowe, I'd like you to meet John Kennedy Jr.," someone said. "Hey, man, good to meet you," I said. He smiled. We shook hands and I was relieved that my by then ex-girlfriend wasn't there to notice that he was slightly taller than I was, or to comment on who had better-looking hair. We made some small talk, and I remember thinking, How does he do it? How does he carry the scrutiny? How does he attempt a normal life? Is it even possible? Is it even worth trying?

He was charming and gracious and didn't seem to be unnerved by the multitudes of eyeballs stealing glances as we spoke. Eventually, as we were both single guys in our twenties, the talk turned to girls. "Maybe we should get outta here, go find where the action is," he said. I looked at him. "Dude. You're fucking JFK Jr.! All right?! You don't need to go anywhere!" He looked at me and laughed, and as he did I saw a glimpse of his father and was reminded of his family's legacy of sacrifice and tragedy, and was glad that he was carrying the mantle so well and with so much promise for the future.

Eventually we went our separate ways, never teaming up to hunt down any fun that night (although I later wrestled open a wet bar at 2:00 a.m. with a vice presidential short-list candidate). Over the years I watched him navigate the currents of fame, dating, and career ups and downs, curious to see how his life would play out. Sometimes he and I would both appear on those shameful lists of "Hunks." (Could there be a more degrading or, frankly, gross word than "hunk"? Hunk of what? Hunk of wood? Hunk of cheese? Yikes!) There may have even been a girl or two whom we both coveted, but that was the extent of my contact with him.

In the late '90s my wife, Sheryl, and I were on a romantic ski vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho. We still felt like newlyweds, in spite of having two beautiful baby boys from whom we'd escaped for a rare evening out. Sun Valley is one of my favorite spots. It's old school (as the site of North America's first chair lift) and glamorous (the home of Hemingway and early Hollywood royalty), and boasts one of the greatest ski mountains in the country. I had been going there since the mid-'80s and always liked the mix of people you might encounter at any given time. One evening at a big holiday party, I felt a tap on the shoulder. It was John Jr. "How've you been, man?" he asked with a smile. I introduced him to Sheryl. He congratulated us on our marriage. After a while Sheryl went off on her own, leaving the two of us alone in the corner watching the party move on around us. Even in this more rarefied crowd, you could feel the occasional glare of curious observation. A ski instructor passed by, a movie star; a local ski bunny brushed by John and flipped her hair. "How did you do it?" he asked, so low against the buzz of the party that I couldn't quite hear.

"I'm sorry?"

"How did you do it?" he repeated. "I mean how did you settle down? You of all people."

I looked at him and he was smiling, almost laughing, as if covering something else, some other emotion, something I couldn't quite discern. At first I thought he might be gently poking fun at me; up until my marriage, my life had been publicly marked by a fair number of romances, some covered with great interest in the papers. But I saw that his question was real, and that he seemed to be grappling with a sort of puzzle he could not solve. I realized he was looking across the room to a willowy blonde. She had fantastic blue eyes, and the kind of beauty and magnetism that was usually reserved for film stars. She was standing next to my wife, Sheryl, also a blue-eyed blonde with a beauty and presence that made her seem as if a spotlight and wind machine were constantly trained on her.

I put two and two together. "Looks like you have a great girl. That's half the battle right there. She's obviously amazing and if she's your best friend, marry her. You can do it. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't, that you're not ready, or not capable. Come on in, man, the water's warm. I'm here to tell you it is; if she's your friend in addition to all of the other stuff, pull the trigger, don't let her get away. You never know what life will bring."

I think he was a little taken aback at the passion of my response. I'm not at all sure what he had expected me to say. But he asked, so what the hell. John nodded and we went on to other topics. The next day, we met to ski on the mountain he snowboarded, ripping down the face, fast and free. But the weather was turning and a white-out was upon us. In the snow and the speed and the wind, we were separated. I looked up over a ridge and he was gone, lost in the clouds.

John did marry his blonde, his Carolyn. I was glad for him and thought about sending him a note, but somehow I didn't (of all my character flaws — and there are a number of them — procrastination is one of the most distinctive). Instead I wished him luck, children, and longevity of love with one of my nonalcoholic beers as I watched the coverage on Entertainment Tonight. As a political junkie and unashamed admirer of our country, I was a huge fan of his brainchild, George magazine. When someone finally stopped asking celebrities appearing on its cover to pose in those George Washington wigs I thought: Okay, they're rollin' now!

The end of the century approached. The '90s were a time of building for me. Building a life that was sober, drained of harmful, wasteful excess and manufacturing in its place a family of my own. This was my priority through the decade and that work continues to pay off today with the love of my sons, Matthew and Johnowen, and the constant gift of the love of my wife, Sheryl. Whereas the '80s had been about building a career, the '90s ended with my having built a life.

At the end of the decade, my career was very much in flux, just as it had been at the end of the previous one. I had had some successes in the '90s, always made money, but the truth was I was like a man pushing a boulder up a hill. A huge, heavy, difficult boulder made up of some career mistakes, projects that didn't meet expectations, and twenty years of being a known quantity. And not only not being the new sensation, but worse, being someone people in Hollywood took for granted, someone with no surprises left in him. For example, the ability to appear on the cover of magazines is critical for any major actor. It's just a fact of the business end of show business. And I hadn't been on the cover of a magazine in almost ten years. To have the kind of career one aspires to, comprising good, major work over the course of a lifetime, it was critical that I find two things: the breakout, watershed project to remind people what I could accomplish as an actor, and that first magazine cover and profile to publicize it. It was June of 1999 and John Kennedy Jr. was about to help me get both.

My longtime publicist Alan Nierob was on the line. "Apparently JFK Jr. stood up in today's staff meeting and said he had just seen a pilot for a new TV series that was the embodiment of everything he founded George magazine to be. He was emotional about it, very moved by the show and inspired to help people hear about it. He thinks The West Wing can be one of those once-in-a-lifetime shows that can change people's lives. Your character of Sam Seaborn was his favorite and he wants to put you on George's September cover."

Although the advance copy of The West Wing had been receiving freakishly unanimous raves, I was ecstatic and humbled by this particular endorsement. It's impossible to imagine living JFK Jr.'s life and then watching a show whose central theme was the heart and soul of the American presidency. His whole world has been shaped by the office, the service to it, and the tragic sacrifice in its name. The West Wing was going to be about "the best and the brightest." His father's administration all but coined the phrase.

"Um, Alan, does John realize that there is no guarantee that the show will last through the fall?" I knew that George was in serious financial trouble and could ill-afford to feature a show with the high likelihood of attaining the ultimate creative Pyrrhic victory: worshipped by critics, ignored by the public. If the show was quickly canceled (and quite a few thought it would be) it would be a financial disaster for John and, possibly, could be the end of the magazine. "Rob," Alan said, "John is putting you on the cover. He couldn't care less."

The politics of the workplace can be complicated, Machiavellian, self-serving, and just downright stupid no matter where you work. My grandpa ran a restaurant in Ohio for fifty years. I'm sure every now and then he would get nervous when his most popular carhop got uppity and started wanting better hours. My father practices law to this day and deals with those who smile to his face, then wish he would step on a limpet mine in the middle of Ludlow Street. That's the way it is in the world. It's just worse in Hollywood.

Someone, somewhere, got it into their heads that it would be a bad thing for the launch of our new show if I was on the cover of George. It was made very clear to me that I had no right to be on this cover and that John should rescind the offer. When pushed for a reason as to why it would be a bad thing for a show no one had ever heard of to get this kind of recognition, the response was: "Everyone should be on the cover. Not you." I understood that there was no single "star" of the show, but still thought it was a great opportunity for all concerned. The higher-ups remained adamant and they asked John to take me off the cover. He refused.

As I puzzled over (and was hurt by) this disconnect between me and my new bosses on The West Wing, John was in New York planning the cover shoot. He chose Platon, one of the great photographers, and lined up the journalist for the profile. After it was clear that John made his own choices on his covers, and could not be pushed around, the folks at The West Wing backed down and allowed an on-set visit and an additional article about the show, cast, and writers to be written. John wanted to throw a party for me in New York to coincide with the magazine's release and the premiere of the show. I made plans to attend and to thank him for supporting me at a time when no one else had. I picked up the phone and called his offices, and got an assistant. "He just came out of the last meeting on your cover issue and is running late for the airport. Can he call you Monday?"

"No problem," I said, "we'll talk then."

I hung up and started preparing for Monday's table reading of the first episode of The West Wing. John hopped into his car. He was rushing to meet Carolyn and her sister Lauren, eager to get to the airport to fly them to his cousin Rory's wedding. It was a hazy summer evening, the kind we remember from childhood. He was probably excited. He was going back to his family. He was going home.

It's been my experience that when a phone call wakes you, it's never good news. I had taken a small cottage in Burbank, a few blocks from the studio for late nights and I was asleep when I got the call. It was Sheryl and I could tell she was upset. She wanted me to turn on the news.

At first it seemed like it couldn't possibly be happening. Clearly these reporters had it wrong. John, his beloved wife, and her sister would surely be found in an embarrassing mix-up or miscommunication. They could not be gone. No one is that cruel. No God can ask that of a family. No one would so much as imagine the possibility of the horrific and arbitrary sudden nature of fate. Search teams scrambled and, like most Americans, I said a prayer of hope.

Monday came. The search for John, Carolyn, and Lauren continued. At the studio the cast and producers gathered for the very first table reading of The West Wing. I stood and told the group how much John admired the show and asked that we pray for him and work with his inspiration. It was very quiet. People were numb.

Later there was talk of canceling the cover shoot, now just days away. I was devastated and in no mood for it. But John's editors insisted, pointing out that John's last editorial decision was to make this happen. It was what he wanted. By Tuesday the worst had been confirmed. The plane had been found. There were no survivors. John, Carolyn, and Lauren were gone. I heard the news on my way to the photo session.

Being on the Oval Office set is very moving. It is an exact replica of the Clinton version, down to the artwork on the walls and the fabrics on the couches. (It was designed by the amazing movie production designer Jon Hutman, who does all of Robert Redford's movies and whom I've known since he was Jodie Foster's roommate at Yale.) It is so realistic that when I later found myself in the actual Oval Office, I felt as if it was just "another day at the office." I was, however, fascinated with the one thing the real Oval Office has that ours did not, and that was a ceiling. I stood looking up at it, staring like an idiot while everyone else oohed and aahed at all the amazing historical pieces that fill the room. However, it's not authenticity that takes your breath away when you step onto that soundstage at Warner Bros. Studios. It is the solemnity of history, of destiny, and of fate; you are certain that you are actually in the room where power, patriotism, faith, the ability to change the world, and the specter of both success and tragedy flow like tangible, unbridled currents. You feel the presence of the men who navigated them as they created our collective American history, and you fully realize that they were not disembodied images on the nightly news or unknowable titans or partisan figureheads to be applauded or ridiculed. It feels as if you are standing where they stood, you can open their desk drawers, sit in their seat, and dial their phone. They are somehow more real to you now, they are not the sum of their successes or failures, they are human beings.


Excerpted from Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe. Copyright © 2011 Robert Lowe. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Stories I Only Tell My Friends 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 522 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading Rob's book! What a wonderful adventure he led us through. However, I purchased the book on Nook and the pictures that are in the hardback version are not in the Nook version. Why? If I had known this before I bought the book I would have not purchased it on Nook.
Deb Ratliff More than 1 year ago
Book was good read. Was upset pictures was not included with down load on my nook. Had to go into store to look at book in order to see them. Like pictures to be included if they come with book you buy off shelf.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did not get any pictures in my color nook from this book. :(
my_oasis More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Being a child of the 80s and a fan of Lowe's for years, I couldn't wait to pick it up. I was not disappointed. His stories are very telling, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking. His opening chapter referencing JFK Jr immediately sets the tone of this book. Lowe has clearly poured his heart into this book without holding anything back. Yes, there are lots of name dropping, but what would be the point of sharing the stories if they didn't have that "ah ha moment" or "wow effect". I now have a whole new outlook of the person, not just the actor, that Lowe has become. I also highly recommend this to anyone looking for a real glimpse into the Hollywood process and how a once teen heartthrob was able to jump the gauntlet to serious adult actor.
MBproc1 More than 1 year ago
I'm an old hand at Hollywood Autobiographys - I started with David Niven and have read just about everything out there - the good - not nearly enough, the bad way too many to count and the ugly some of which were too awful to even finish. Rob Lowe has done a pretty decent job of walking the fine line of classy not trashy. I've admired his acting skill - never more so than as Sam Seaborn in The West Wing, but his comedy turns in Wayne's World and Austin Powers are so joyfully unexpected that they completely changed my concept of what kind of an actor he was. But to hear the back stories and to understand the journey that got him to those roles makes me appreciate him even more.
Cecita More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book thoroughly. He is a surprisingly good writer. He has stories about some big names and big places. I highly recommend. But better buy the hardcover for the pics. No pics on the Nook??!!!
All_Net More than 1 year ago
i enjoyed getting a glimpse of the real rob lowe. there's so much more to him than a pretty face and he told his story well. this book is filled with a lot of little surprises that make you appreciate the authentic actor, activist and family man he is. read this book even if you're not a r-lowe fan. his movie and tv making stories will remind you of the value of friendship, family and being true to yourself...and make you thankful for your "regular" job at the office. good job lowe and crew.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan for years but wasn't really interested in reading his autobiography til I saw the interview with Oprah. So glad I caught that. Rob Lowe is an excellent writer. Great book - I highly recommend reading it!
Lenny-1 More than 1 year ago
Great book - impressive writer - his life story is fascinating!
SparklePrincess More than 1 year ago
A really enjoyable read. He is entertaining and still sooo good looking. For anyone who enjoyed his movies in the 80's, this will be an entertaining way to spend some time. I hope that he writes another.
Dorothyfrmks257933 More than 1 year ago
Interesting, entertaining, amusing,being a gentlemen in NOT describing the "close encounters" with the women he romanced, but honest about his prowness. I read this in 2 afternoon's on my Nook, enjoyed it greatly and wish books weren't so expensive on the Nook, I would buy one every week if not more. Thank Rob for you honesty and not sugar coating your upbringing, your struggles and I, for one, am soooo happy you have such great sons and a good marriage. Dorothy
Brenda Vance More than 1 year ago
I have been a Rob Lowe fan for years, since his Outsiders days. It was a great read and interesting to know how he got his start and turned his life around. I couldn't put my nook down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a huge Rob Lowe fan and I was very excited for his book to come out. I really enjoyed finding out about his childhood and reading all of the stories from his childhood that seem almost too good to be true (growing up with the Sheens and the Penns, meeting Sarah Jessica Parker, Darryl Hannah, Janet Jackson, etc before they were famous, being friendly with JFK Jr, and having an affair with Princess Stephanie to name a few). However, I am disappointed in his skipping over of certain things and I was left feeling as though this wasn't really an autobiography, but rather a re-telling of his life, only including the good parts. Melissa Gilbert, a huge part of his life, was addressed as his "on and off girlfriend". He barely mentions the sex tape scandal, other than a few lines. Had you not known about it, the few phrases thrown into the book would've been confusing. And my biggest disappointment was the way that he handled the West Wing story. As one of my favorite shows (and how I was introduced to Rob Lowe), I was very disappointed in the lack of material written about it AND the way that he addressed the cast and crew. You can see clearly that this is the show the restarted his career and that the production team said from the start that they did not want a star and he was willing to do whatever it took to get onto the cast, including taking a lot less than what he felt he was worth, monetarily. He complains that he wasn't included in anything with his cast, but even in his book he refuses to acknowledge them, never once naming members of the cast other then John Spencer and Martin Sheen. Alison Janey and Dule Hill each merit ONE mention. Not only that, but he gets many facts wrong. Now I will admit to being freakishly obsessed with the show, but even just a casual watcher will realize some of his mistakes. I mean, c'mon Rob, it was YOUR show and you didn't get the season correct for one of the biggest plot lines?? (It should be worth mentioning that he got other facts wrong throughout the book, facts that are easily google-able before publication, like what color Sarah Jessica Parker's eyes are.) All in all, the book is fantastically entertaining and I read it in one day. I definitely recommend it. I still love Rob, but I'm disappointed in the way he handled some of the things that happened in his life.
Alla_S More than 1 year ago
"Stories I only tell my friends" is Rob Lowe's memoir chronicling his years to stardom, his time with the brat pack (fellow young Hollywood stars like Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Sean Penn, etc.), behind-the-scenes look at his participation in hit movies like "The Outsiders" (starring young Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, etc. and directed by Francis Ford Coppola), as well as hit shows like "The West Wing" (starring Charlie Sheen's father as the president of the United States). The memoir begins with his time growing up In Ohio, the separation of his parents, and the move with his mother and brother to California. Lowe showed a love for theater since young age, and had shorts stints on commercials and an unsuccessful TV show. He considers quitting showbiz altogether, until his successful casting in "The Outsiders" comes along. As he launches his acting career, Lowe meets fellow wannabe's who are about to become stars themselves, people he refers to as Janet (Jackson), Sarah (Jessica Parker), and Demi (Moore), among many others. Also notable is his acquaintance with John Kennedy Jr., who wonders at Lowe's ability to settle down with his wife, and later puts Lowe on the cover of "George" magazine despite many naysayers (most prominently the "invisible forces" on Lowe's then-show "The West Wing" who lead Lowe to ultimately quit the show). As his acting career goes through success to troubles to somewhere in between, Lowe copes with a lack of a father figure, his mother's mental problems, and his various relationships which range from "Little house on the prairie" actress Melissa Gilbert, to Princess Stephanie of Monaco (Grace Kelly's daughter), and ultimately his wife, make-up artist Sheryl (with various flings and scandals in between). I found this book pretty entertaining and a suitable beach read.
CITAOH More than 1 year ago
You may be asking yourself why I say that, well by page 55 I decided Rob is my generations Forrest Gump. I may be a little bias I'm from Beavercreek, Ohio so I give him props for his Midwestern "ways", but the kid had "it" from the get go he decided on what he wanted and went for it. The Forrest Gump part well you decide for yourself, get as far as page 55 and see if you don't say " My God Rob Lowe is Forrest Gump" :-) this can't be REAL.. but it is all of it .. I will say no more except that I found the book to be very honest, Rob may be extremely handsome but he is also a thinker, and has no problems admitting where he himself has made some mistakes ( as we all have at times in life), overall a very good read .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rob Lowe has crafted a beautifully written novel centered around his intriguing career. Hooked! Excited to read his second book "Love Life".
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Janniegirl More than 1 year ago
Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He somehow forgets to mention that he was engaged to Melissal Gilbert for 5 years. It's like he went from famous to the only woman he was engaged to and married. I had forgotten until I ran across it. Also, not honest about his feelings on money on the west wing so it makes you wonder what else he is not honest about or has left out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago